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Relocation to make way for Great Wall
( 2003-12-24 02:38) (China Daily)

In a rarely large programme to protect the Great Wall and old buildings nearby, half the residents are to be moved out of Shanhaiguan, an ancient city located at the east end of the wall, or the so-called "Lao Longtou" (head of the architecture dragon), one of China's prides.

Lao Longtou in Shanhaiguan, northern China. [file photo/newsphoto.com.cn]
More than 1 billion yuan (US$120 million) have been earmarked for the relocation of the residents, said officials from the local government, which looked determined to heavily finance Great Wall protection projects.

A total of over 1.8 billion yuan (US$200 million) will be used for the project beginning next year.

Currently some 20,000 people live in the city of Shanhaiguan, which is now under the jurisdiction of Qinhuangdao City, regarded as the starting point of the Great Wall that stretches thousands of kilometres to the west.

For more than 600 years, Shanhaiguan was a key military pass. Now it is one of the best known scenic spots for domestic and overseas tourists.

This programme is expected to help placate growing appeals from experts and the public for urgent effective measures to stop dismantling of old buildings for modern facilities.

The Shanhaiguan Ancient City Protection and Development Project, one of the key projects in Hebei Province, also aims to tap local tourism potentials and help improve the living conditions of residents living inside the ancient city, said Song Changrui, a leading Qinhuangdao official, on Monday.

Under the project that covers 1.5 million square metres, ancient relics will be better protected, ancient city walls and old houses of historical significance repaired, illegally-built houses demolished. Also, several schools, hospitals, government office buildings and enterprises will be moved to new sites outside of the ancient city so as to restore the ancient features of the city which was first built in 1381 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Jian Ruiting, mayor of Qinhuangdao, noted that top priority will be given to protection of the relics in the ancient city during the implementation of the project.

The Shanhaiguan Ancient City Relics Protection Plan has passed the appraisal by a group of experts from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

According to the plan, the 4,600-metre-long city wall will be repaired, the Drum Tower at the centre of the ancient city and three city-gate-towers and some memorial archways will be rebuilt and ancient streets be restored in accordance with historical records.

New residential buildings and facilities will be built outside the ancient city for the resettlement of a large number of residents living inside the ancient city.

Through the resettlement, it is hoped that the living conditions of the residents will be improved with better housing, heating and sanitary facilities.

The local government will start the project by injecting some initial funds and expects to tap various funding resources.

Total investment in the project is estimated to reach 1.826 billion yuan (US$220.79 million). Most of the project is expected to be done by 2008.

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